SAINTS captain Adam Lallana's knee injury could keep him out of action until February.
The midfielder has missed the club’s last four league matches after sustaining knee ligament damage during the 1-0 home win over Reading on December 8.
Lallana is understood to have attempted some straight-line running this week for the first time, but was unable to turn or move from side-to-side without suffering discomfort.
That means it is likely to be a number of weeks yet before he is ready to play, making it unlikely he will feature in any of the next five games.
Ideally, the club would hope to have him back in normal action on the training ground within a month from now.
However, that timescale could extend depending on how quickly the pain in his knee settles down.
Saints have so far refused to disclose how long Lallana is due to be sidelined for.
The Daily Echo reported at the time of the injury that the 24-year-old was going to miss at least the festive period, and probably more.
Lallana will certainly miss this Saturday’s trip to relegation rivals Aston Villa, as well as next Wednesday’s rearranged visit to Chelsea.
The home game against Everton on Monday, January 21, will likely come too soon as well.
Saints then have the advantage of a free weekend, as a result of being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea last Saturday.
Following that is the visit to Manchester United on Wednesday, January 30, then an important trip to fellow strugglers Wigan on the first Saturday in February.
It appears unlikely that Lallana will be back in time for any of those fixtures, barring a quicker-than-anticipated recovery.